American Medical Association launches CPT app and medical app contest

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 30, 2011        

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mzl.xvbljjei.320x480-75This week the American Medical Association (AMA) announced the launch of its first smartphone app called CPT E/M QuickRef, a reference guide that helps physicians determine the appropriate CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) code to use for billing. The AMA also launched a medical app contest for physicians and medical students.

“Compatible with Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad, the app features both decision-tree logic and quick search options, allowing physicians to digitally track CPT codes and email them anywhere,” according to the AMA’s iPhone app description. “Physicians can also save their most frequently used codes by location or type of service to allow for even more ease of use.”

The app carries a caveat: “This app provides suggested codes,” the AMA wrote. “Final code selection remains the full responsibility of the individual user.”

The AMA 2011 App Challenge is looking for ideas for apps from physicians, medical students and residents, which the AMA will then “bring to life.” Winners get $2,500 (cash and prizes) and a ticket to New Orleans to watch the “unveiling” of their app at the AMA’s annual gathering later this year.

“The AMA’s new CPT quick reference app helps physicians determine the appropriate E&M code for billing quickly, easily and accurately,” AMA Board Secretary Steven J. Stack, M.D. stated in the association’s press release. “To find the next great medical app idea we are going right to the source by inviting physicians, residents and medical students to participate in the first-ever AMA App Challenge.”

Assuming Stack was referring to the CPT quick reference app as the most recent “great medical app idea,” our research shows at least 46 other developers beat the AMA to the punch. MobiHealthNews’ last survey of the health-related apps available for the major smartphone platforms found that 46 apps were available to download from Apple’s AppStore as of September 2010. This group of apps grew 170 percent over the six months leading up to our survey — in February 2010 there were only 17 apps that helped healthcare providers look up billing codes. (More in our apps report: The Fastest Growing and Most Successful Health & Medical Apps.)

For more on the AMA’s app and app challenge, see the press release below: Keep reading>>

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HealthTap raises $2.35M from Mohr Davidow, angels

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 30, 2011        

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HealthTap LogoLast week Silicon Valley-based start-up HealthTap announced it had secured $2.35 million in its first round of funding from Mohr Davidow Ventures and a group of angel investors including Esther Dyson, Mark Leslie, Aaron Patzer (founder and former CEO of Mint.com) and others. While HealthTap’s offering is currently in private beta the startup plans to create an “expert health companion” that improves interactivity between physicians and patients. Mobile components for the Companion are also in the works, according to the company.

HealthTap founder and CEO Ron Gutman only made vague comments about HealthTap’s plans in the company’s press release: “This funding allows us to focus 100 percent of our resources on accomplishing our vision: to create a healthier, happier world – one decision at a time. We have the resources, leadership and expertise to create a solution that delivers tailored knowledge from doctors to users seeking useful and actionable health information online.”

Mohr Davidow’s Bill Ericson added a little more detail:

“HealthTap is integrating personalization, game dynamics, and social networking to increase our engagement with our health and well-being. Consumers and physicians are increasingly joining the online conversation, and interactive health deserves the close attention of the investment community,” Ericson, a general partner at MDV stated in the press release.

HealthTap founder Gutman is perhaps best known for his previous startup, WellSphere, which he sold to HealthCentral in early 2009 for an undisclosed amount. WellSphere reportedly had $3 million in funding at the time of acquisition. Since then Gutman has been an angel investor, and advisor to the SMArt Initiative and the recently announced mHealth and Health 2.0 incubator Rock Health.

Mohr Davidow Ventures has invested in a handful of mobile health companies including Massive Health, Corventis, iRhythm. It’s also one of Rock Health’s VC partners.

For more on the HealthTap deal, read the press release below: Keep reading>>

GreatCall: Voice apps best approach for seniors

By: Neil Versel | Mar 30, 2011        

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Jitterbug Wireless patient monitoring devices tied to a home-based connectivity hub are supposed to improve the quality of life and to prevent hospital readmissions for the elderly, people with chronic diseases and post-operative patients. But they have one serious flaw.

“They’re great until you go past the mailbox,” noted Madeline Pantalone, vice president for strategy and business development at GreatCall, creator of the Jitterbug cell phone and several wireless health and wellness apps for seniors. Cellular connectivity is a better idea, Pantalone said Wednesday morning during the opening general session of the mHealth Initiative’s Third mHealth Networking conference Wednesday in Rosemont, Ill.

The average user of GreatCall products and services is 68 years old, according to Pantalone, so the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company wants to keep its apps simple. Jitterbug phones, with large buttons and uncluttered screen displays, “are terrible for texting because you have to triple tap, and seniors don’t want that anyway,” Pantalone said.

Pantalone said that 80 percent of seniors’ activity on cell phones is making or receiving calls, not texting, browsing the Web or running smartphone apps. That’s pretty much opposite the trend for younger generations, so GreatCall’s services are mostly voice-to-voice. “We’ve found that voice and IVR-based apps are effective,” Pantalone said.

GreatCall is developing apps for the iPhone and the Google Android platforms—the iPhone version will launch in about a month—but Pantalone promises that the views will be simple so users won’t have to scroll or tap through multiple screens to find what they want.

Pantalone also reported on another interesting data point among its older customer base that runs counter to attitudes of younger people: 38 percent of Jitterbug and GreatCall users surveyed in 2010 expressed a willingness to pay a recurring monthly fee for a health-related service. This explains why the company has been successful despite the fact that Medicare and other health insurers aren’t paying for remote monitoring and mobile wellness services.

“We’re too early to get payer reimbursement on a lot of this,” Pantalone said. “If we wait around for the government to pay for all of this, we’re going to lose this generation of seniors.”

mHealth “cyberchondria” is a small price to pay

By: Neil Versel | Mar 30, 2011        

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Neil VerselA special report on “Innovations in Health Care” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Monday included a feature on mobile devices.

Most of what the Journal reported shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads MobiHealthNews: Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer at Scripps Health in San Diego, thinks the pocket ultrasound is ending the 200-year reign of the stethoscope. Telemedicine monitoring technology has found its way on board ambulances. The Mobile MIM system, recently cleared by the Food and Drug Administration as a diagnostic radiology device, and AirStrip OB, which gained 510(k) clearance in 2009, are among the many products taking advantage of the iPhone’s impressive combination of power and portability. And telecom giant AT&T is working on “smart slippers” to help prevent falls by the elderly by warning caregivers of changes in the wearer’s gait.

The story is worth reading if for nothing else than Topol’s warning about one drawback of mobile and wireless health opening up so much information to physicians and patients: “We could create a whole culture of cyberchondriacs,” he cautioned.

Ah, cyberchondriacs. Apparently first identified in the mid-1990s, cyberchondriacs are people who, after reading about a medical condition online, believe they exhibit enough symptoms to be worried. The rise of WebMD and its automated symptom checker at the end of the 20th Century brought on the first wave of cyberchondriacs.

I really thought the phenomenon had waned as people started to show a healthier dose of skepticism about things they read on the Internet. But it seemingly came back with a vengeance. In December 2007, CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen asked, “Are you a cyberchondriac”? A year later, the term “cyberchondriac” was a finalist for Webster’s New World Dictionary Word of the Year. It’s also found its way as recently as 2009 into that barometer of buzz, Urban Dictionary. (Can I say “buzzrometer”? That’s just as made-up as cyberchondriac.)

All this has led me to believe that the term has as much staying power as, well, a chronic disease. You know, the same kinds of conditions that so many m-health apps are designed to track and treat.

Todd Park, the first-ever CTO of the Department of Health and Human Services, often speaks of “data liberación through innovative apps. If mobile developers succeed in freeing all the information trapped in healthcare databases—and in our bodies—then they may unleash another wave of cyberchondria. But they also could open up avenues to better health, lower-cost care and potentially some major breakthroughs in medicine.

Wouldn’t that be worth the trouble?

Wellness device maker Basis scoops up $9M

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 29, 2011        

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Basis BandSan Francisco-based health and wellness startup, Basis just closed $9 million in a first round of funding led by Norwest Venture Partners and Doll Capital Management, according to a report at Venture Beat. Basis, previously known as PulseTracer, offers a wrist worn device called Basis Band that measures the wearer’s heart rate and other vital signs. Basis also plans to allow third party developers to build apps that work with the device.

While Basis Band is available for pre-order from the company’s website at $199, the company has yet to announce when the device will first ship.

According to Venture Beat, the company has also hired a “superstar CEO,” a position currently held by co-founder Nadeem Kassam.

Basis wrote on its blog that the funding will help speed up delivery of the product to those already on the preorder wait list. The deal also brings two new advisors to the company: Tim Chang from Norwest Venture Partners and Jason Krikorian from DCM, Basis wrote.

We also noted that former Engineering Program Manager at Google Health, Julie Wilner is Director of Product at Basis. She’s held the position since leaving Google Health last August.

Around that same time Basis COO Bharat Vasan demonstrated the company’s device, then called Pulse Tracer, at a Quantified Self event. The 11 minute video can be viewed here.

Has Epocrates’ success turned investors on to mobile health?

By: Brian Dolan | Mar 28, 2011        

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EpocratesA report in the Venture Capital Journal thinks so.

Last month Epocrates, which offers one of the most popular medical apps for healthcare professionals, raised about $86 million in an initial public offering. Its stock rose 38 percent in its first day of trading. The success of Epocrates and its large user base of US healthcare professionals — 45 percent of all practicing physicians in the country use Epocrates’ products — has helped convince investors that mobile apps for the healthcare field may be “the next big investment trend,” according to a report in the Venture Capital Journal (VCJ).

“The stars are beginning to align in favor of new companies” Bijan Salehizadeh, general partner at Highland Capital Partners, told VCJ. “It is an extremely robust time for mobile health from a business perspective.”

Salehizadeh told the magazine that healthcare IT for mobile devices is one of the fastest growing categories in venture investing today.

We noticed a slight uptick in investments during 2010 with investors pumping a total of $233 million into companies working in mobile health. That figure included announced deals and those disclosed to the SEC — there are likely many more undisclosed deals, too. In 2009 we tracked 15 investment deals. In 2011 we have already tracked more than $60 million in funding announcements this quarter.

Here’s a list of related coverage for investment trends and announcements in mobile health:

Epocrates founders raise $10.8 million for Doximity
Verizon invests in BL Healthcare’s $2 million venture round
Diabetes mobile health company snags $48 million from investors
Massive Health scoops up $2.25 million to build apps that appreciate patients
Investors pumped $233M into mobile health in 2010
The 15 wireless health VC deals of 2009
Harvard students to launch mHealth incubator
iPhone Exec: Leaving to invest in wireless, medicine start-ups

For more from the VCJ article check out this peHub post (VCJ is subscription only)